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Big bucks for England duo

ENGLAND'S Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff became the latest members of cricket's get-rich-quick club yesterday, fetching record annual salaries of US$1.55 million each at the Indian Premier League player auction in Panaji, western India.

The second edition of the auction for India's Twenty20 league saw the England pair receive new record salaries despite being available for only half of the upcoming six-week competition.

Flintoff was snapped up by Chennai Super Kings, which last year set the previous record of US$1.5 million for India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Bangalore's Royal Challengers secured Pietersen on a day in which a total of US$7.65 million in annual salaries was bid for 17 players.

The two former England captains had reserve annual salaries around the US$1 million mark despite being available for only the early part of the upcoming IPL season before returning to England duty.

Still, they were subject to strong bidding. Rajasthan Royals, the defending IPL champions, tried to secure both but got neither.

Bangalore's owner Vijay Mallya said he was prepared to pay even more for Pietersen, illustrating the eagerness of the franchise to find a catalyst after last year's poor season.

"It was a very worthwhile investment. Kevin topped our wish list going into the auction," Mallya said.

England players were not involved in the IPL last year, but were permitted by the England and Wales Cricket Board to play for the first three weeks of the 2009 campaign.

Australia paceman Shaun Tait was the first player to be put up for bids from the eight franchisees, and went for US$375,000 to Rajasthan, where he will join former Australia teammate Shane Warne.

Rajasthan also laid out a surprisingly large amount for South Africa allrounder Tyron Henderson, who went for US$650,000 -- the fourth-highest amount of the day and six times his reserve price -- after the Deccan Chargers forced up the price with persistent counter-bids.

South Africa's J.P. Duminy attracted the day's third-highest bid when he was sold for US$950,000 to Mumbai Indians, more than three times his reserve price.

The most dramatic bidding came for Bangladesh's Mashrafe bin Mortaza, whose reserve was set at US$50,000 but soared to 12 times that amount before Kolkata Knight Riders clinched him for US$600,000 after half an hour of counter-bids from Kings XI Punjab.


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